Tonya Rogers is about to scratch a seven-year itch.
After completing an associate degree program in 2012, she is on track to graduate from the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program at the University of South Carolina Aiken in December 2019.
"I've been wanting to go back for a really long time," Rogers said. "My children were little when I finished my associate degree at Midlands Technical College, so it has taken me seven years to finally do it. I had a great opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree — and I took it."
Rogers is a radiation oncology nurse at Lexington Medical Center in West Columbia, South Carolina. She and her husband, Jamie, have three children — J.J. (18), Hunter (14) and Abigail (13).
"My original plan was to start my bachelor's degree the fall after I graduated with my associate degree, but my husband went to the police academy that summer," she said. "About the time he finished, our daughter developed epilepsy. Our lives went on hold for a while."
Now, Rogers and J.J. are in college at the same time. He is a freshman at North Greenville University.
"Although he could see how college would be different than high school, I am able to help him with some things now that he's there," she said. "He's a biology major, so we can talk closer on a peer-to-peer level. Whenever the kids talk about being stressed out at school, they see what mom is doing and see me pushing through."
Back on Pace
Rogers was raised in Lexington by a single mother, Peggy Morrison, who aspired to become a paramedic.
"Being a single mom of two little girls, she unfortunately didn't finish," Rogers aid. "She would bring her books home. It was not necessarily pictures and graphic scenes a normal 5-year-old would look at, but I looked at my mom's paramedic book. It made me fall in love with medicine."
Initially, Rogers enrolled in college while she was still in high school in hopes of becoming a doctor before her plans changed.
"I got crazy, got married, and my husband and I started an instant family," she said. "I was pregnant three weeks after we got married. I took some time off, raised our kids and then went back to nursing school."
Rogers learned about the USC Aiken online RN to BSN program from Lexington Medical Center best practices administrator Helen Rivers.
"She is a previous faculty member at USC Aiken and knew the people in the nursing college," Rogers said. "I went to her because I have known her since I was a child, when my mother worked in shipping and receiving on the loading dock at the hospital where I work."
The flexibility of the online format helps Rogers maintain a full-time job and still make time for her family while earning a degree.
"It's been extremely manageable," she said. "The schedule has been wonderful. I work a Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. job. There hasn't been a time when I wasn't able to get my work done — at least none that wasn't my own fault."
So far, NURS A360: Health Assessment has been Rogers' favorite course in the curriculum.
"I am hoping to go on to become a nurse practitioner, so that course probably felt the most like anything close to it," she said. "It was very good information. For the most part, pretty much every course has had a piece I could use at work.
"In the research class I took, I always tried to base my subject matter on something I was doing at work. I was able to change one of the policies we were using at work with our radiation patients to help them. That was extremely gratifying. I enjoyed that."
Tonya with her husband, Jamie, and children, J.J., Hunter and Abigail
Down the Stretch
Although Rogers still has a couple months left in the online RN to BSN program, the degree is already paying dividends and laying the foundation for the future.
"It's opening up opportunities at work," she said. "I have been a part of a program called Survivorship for a while. It's enabled me to do a little more with that.
"I am looking at possibly doing an oncology nurse practitioners program. I love oncology, and I know that I want to stay in that field."
Planning out and making efficient use of time has been the key to success for Rogers in her return to higher education. When she isn't working or studying, she enjoys crafting, embroidering, sewing and quilting. She also takes pleasure in fishing and mountain trips with her family.
"My best advice is to be prepared," Rogers said. "With good time management, this program is totally doable. It will work with different schedules. Be prepared to work hard because it is a very good foundational program for that next step."
She looks forward to walking the stage at the commencement ceremony in December with her family watching from the stands. She knows that achieving her goal of earning a bachelor's degree will have been worth the wait when that moment arrives.
"I told [USC Aiken Nursing School Dean] Dr. Thayer McGahee that I would recommend this program to anyone," said Rogers, whose desire to earn a BSN seems to have rubbed off on a friend with an ADN. "She messaged me about a month ago and told me she enrolled at USC Aiken and was starting this fall."
It sounds like another itch is being scratched.
Learn more about the USC Aiken online RN to BSN program.
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